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#000: Reserve your copy of Poetry Assignments: The Book from Sage Hill Press and receive a 40% discount. Tentatively priced at $20 and due out soon. To reserve a copy, email Sage Hill Press at:

#100: Self Parody; or She Who Laughs Bests, Laughs at Herself; or Popping the Ego; or How to Make Nelson Muntz "Ha Ha" at You

Now that you've been examining your poetry, it's time to make fun of it. Hyperbolize yourself. Generalize yourself. Write a self parody of your poems' tendacies. Shake it up.

Ask yourself, "Am I still being original? Am I still being fresh? Am I making it new?"

You should do this assignment every couple of years. Starting now 8-31-06. Or whatever day it is that you first read this. Then every 2 or 3 or 5 years (5 might be too long), consider where your are. If, for example, your voice tends to be the same, make fun of it, so you can explore other voices. If it's your tone that tends to be the same, bust it up. Check your syntax, are your following the same techniques because they create a cool effect? If so, make it laugh for you, and then go explore other syntactical arrangements.

Stay fresh my friends. Make it New!

I tend to say "Go forth!" at this point, as if you are a noble knight on a gallant steed, and you are about to go on an exciting journey or battle. But this time I will put on fool's cap with a little bell dangling from the top, spin once, twice, thrice, and with a giggling cackle, a "Ha Ha," and a jocoserious tone announce to you, . . . "Go Jest!"

#99: Making Closure; or Getting to Know You / Getting to Know Every Word About You [use a high, squeeky, out-of-key voice to sing that]; or Damn, Is My Vocabulary that Small? And After All of that Highfalutin Schoolin', too, Sheesh; or I'm Gonna Make You Smoke All Them Ceegars Until You Learn to Hate Them; or The Old Possum's Book of Practical Remedies; or How to Avoid the T. S. Eliot (Old Possum) Syndrome; or Shaking Off the Funk; or Getting Rid of Your Wouby (Mr. Mom anyone?); or Keeping it Fresh; or How Boring Am I?; or Mama Needs a New Pair Words (and how to avoid making your point)

You are gonna need all of your poems for this one. Go through all of your poems and find the most frequent word(s), image(s), idea(s) that appear in your poems. Well, maybe not all of your poems, but over the last year or two or three.

Now use those words, images, ideas, in at least every other line of the next poem you write. And then do it again with the next poem. And the next. Keep doing it until those words, images, and ideas are out of your system. Or until you at least understand how to use them with signficance, and not as an easy fall back.

For instance, my common words and images are: shadows, the moon, and mountains. And I need to purify myself of them so I can grow and move on. Right now they are so easy to use. I know they are inexhaustible material, but, dude, I need to break free for awhile, ya know. I need to learn how to use them with power, again, as I did when I first discovered/used them. Maybe this doesn't happen to you, but if it does, you will find out and cure yourself.

Go refresh!

#98: The Ed Hirsch Experiment; or Keeping Track So You Don't Forget; or The Reading Journal

Ed Hirsch has a fine new book out: Poet's Choice (Harcourt, 2006). This book, basically, is filled with two- or three-page essays about a poet and the poet's poetry. The first part is about individual non-American poets (and it's quite impressive the number of poets he mentions that I've never heard of, but after reading Hirsch's essay, they become poets I want to read — there are, of course, poets I have heard of and read). And the second part is about American poets.

Each essay talks about something wonderful the poet did or how wonderful a poet is/was. Each essay is filled with enthusiasm and love and a deep understanding of the poet and the poet's poetry. Hirsch has been able to turn his head enough to find something in each of the poets he writes about.

So this is what we are going to do. We are going to keep a reading journal. We are going to write about every book of poetry we read. We are going to put into written words why we like, or dislike, a certain book, or poet. You will be able to record your early responses to each book. Later, you can add to the responses. Or later, way later, you can see where you were at this point in your poetry life. I think, in part, it will help us understand how a book of poems works, or will help us understand a particular poet with more depth and clarity — and probably our own poetry.

You can also couple this poetry assignment with poetry assignment #97. You can write about each poem in your anthology.

Yeah, we are going to learn why we really like something. And through the writing of it, we will aid our memory about a poet. You can even rewrite poems in your journal. That's always a good idea.

The next assignment or two will get us back to writing poetry, but in the meanwhile, it's good to reflect through prose.

Go forth!

#97: The David Lehman Experiment; or The Best Poetry According to You

That's right. Each year you will compile your own anthology of the best poems you read that year, but the poems could have first appeared in a year other than the one you are reading. So for instance, if you happen to read Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder's poem "Whoso List to Hunt" (ca. 1526) and you think it is one of the best poems you read during the year, then include it in your anthology.

This activity is continual. But you will start a new anthology at the beginning of each year.

#96: Concrete Poetry; or Gaudier-Brzeska with the Line; or Watch Out for that Stinger

The shape of a poem on the page is indeed a worthy consideration when writing a poem. For me, for instance, I will write a poem with pencil and paper, and I will write it over and over with all the revising until I think it is done. Then I type it into Word. I then stare at it. Fix the shape better so it works better with the content. (It's so nice to have that uniform spacing, unlike my random scrunching and expanding scribblings with my pencil.) Then when I think it is done, I print it. And then revise some, and sculpt the shape some more. Then back to the screen. Then to printed copy, etc. until I think, or the poem tells me, it is done.

The shapes of my poems, good or bad, tend to be rectangular. But there are others who have sculpted lines to represent the shape of the object of the poem. As far as I know, the first person to do this was George Herbert, with poems like "The Altar" (where the shape of the poem looks like an altar) and "Easter Wings" (where the shape of the poem, when turned ninety degrees, looks like a butterfly). The concrete poem then had a resurgence in the 1950s and 1960s. And then recently in William Heyen's poem "Scorpions," which appears in The Rope (MAMMOTH Books, 2003). The poem is below.


In this poem, the reading of the poem imitates the viewing of a scorpion. You look upon the scorpion's body, then curl up his tail, then drop off the stinger back to his body and legs. So the poem, has the second line as the body (the first line read), the first line as the stinger (the second line read), and then the third line the feet (the third line read). And the stinger-line dangles with one word, just like the stinger dangles. The poem snaps your head around as a scorpion would snap its tail. Heyen has another concrete poem, "Wishbone Hull Requiem," that appears in The Rope.

I think this asssignment is a good investigation, or reinvestigation, into the study of the line and line breaks. I think it will make us turn our head and ears just enough to reconsider how the line can act, breathe, perform, seduce, and mimic. I think it will also make us consider and re-consider how the sculpted shape of the poem can contribute in new ways.

Ok. Go forth!

#95: Break on Through to the Other Side; or T+3, T+2, T+1, T=0, T-1, T-2, T-3, T-2006 AD; or The Big Crunch as Big Bang in Reverse; or Neo Takes the Red Pill of Negative Eternity

Recently, some physicists have provided a mathematical model that suggests that there was a time before the Big Bang, which seems contrary to reason, as how could time exist in state of no space or motion? Hm. But by staring through the lense of Loop Quantum Gravity (what's that? Quantum Gravity is a model pyhsicists use to try and combine the predictions and realities of General Relativity (gravity) with quantum physics (the sub-atomic world where gravity doesn't seem to apply), and Loop Quantum Gravity, as far as can tell, is similar to Quantum Gravity but with more subtleties, or specifics).

According to the calculations of Tomasz Pawlowski and Parmpreet Singh, there is another universe on a timeline preceding the Big Bang, and this universe is similar to ours.

But what is before the Big Bang? Is a god gathering her paints, paint brushes, a canvas, and a palette? Is that universe a mirror image of ours, but maybe where the laws of thermodynamics are in reverse — things move towards order (the broken coffee mug on the floor flies up on to the table and becomes a solid mug holding coffee, which gets hotter as time progresses, or regresses as the case may be)? Or is it just part of the flux/breathing of the universe — expand, contract, expand, contract, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva? Is there a white rabbit running around, singing "I'm early, I'm early, I'm early, for an unimportant date"? What I ask is on the other side?

Go explore. Go down the hole. Take Morpheus's red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes, I mean, how far the other universe goes.

For more information: Probing Question: What happened before the Big Bang?.

"Remember ... all I am offering is the truth, nothing more."

#94 a: What a Baby You Are; or The Medium of Time Travel; or The Poetry of Casey Kasem

This idea comes from Karen Head, author of Shadow Boxes (All Nations Press, 2003), though I don't know if this idea appears in her book, but ...

This is what Karen did, if I have it correct, or some part of it. She went back to the year of her birth and used songs from the year of her birth as starting points for poems. For instance, she has a poem titled "Light My Fire," in which she weaves in certain events from the time period of her birth. She then talks to those events and to the song and wraps them all together in a poem that talks back to her existence and to the reader.

So we are going to try something similar. We will use song titles from songs that were on the top 40 chart during the week of your birth (well, for those of you born in 1970 or after). Or you can use titles of songs that came out in the year of your birth, or the titles of albums, or the titles of books, or whatever else you can think of.

The point is to discover the immediate effects of your surroundings when you we're born, by using the title of something as the lense through which you will preceive those surroundings.

I'd been interested in hearing from someone born in 1973 and who has used Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" as their song title. Man, I want to know how that got weaved into your life.

#94 b: Conceptual Music; or How the Solipsist Applied Loop Quantum Gravity to His Existence

Ok. We will be doing a similar thing as in #94a, but now we will do it using the time period of when you were conceived.

If you don't get the second title to #94b, it will be explained, in part, in poetry assignment #95. Look for it soon.

#93: Pessoa as a Time Traveler; or Variations on Rexroth as Marichiko; or Man, You Are So Far Behind the Times

What is your favorite time period of poetry that occurs before 1901? And what country provides your favorite poetry, besides America? Now within that time & place in mind, what poet should have existed that did not? That is, when you read the Romantics, for example, you may have thought, "If I were writing then, I think I would have had this voice, these ideas, these types of visions, inventions, criticisms, insights, and understandings that would epitomize, in full, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the rest." Or something like that.

With that in mind, you need to become an uber-Romantic poet, or an uber-poet from whatever time period and country you like best. You need to pretend you have discovered a poet from a distant time and land, but you need to write poems for that discovered poet, and maybe some literary criticism, or some manifetoes, or some takes on how that poet sees poetry and its purpose.

If you wish, you can bring that poet into our times, and have him/her speak to and in our times.

And while you are it ... the next time you get a book published, use that poet to write a back cover blurb for you, or maybe even a review of your book.

My dude is: Semlohsa Moht. Poet Laureate of Gegôré. (Yeah, the country is fictional, too, which makes for more fun!!)

#92: Fluorescent Lights as Thieves; or Me and My Bones; or In the Event of Light, the Only Safe Place is Under the Desk

Where I work is good place. Good, creative people making a fine product. But I noticed something most odd the other day when I was the turning corner. You see when I turn corners, I listen to hear if anyone is coming, and I try to look through the corners (which can be done if you know how) to see if anyone is coming, and I look to the floor for shadows to see if anyone is approaching, for I don't want to have collision at the corner. And then I realized, after never seeing a shadow approach a corner despite hearing a person and seeing a person through corner walls, I realized: people at work don't cast shadows. It's strange. Some of the cubicle walls cast shadows, and there is always a shadow under my desk (or is it just dark?). But people here have no shadows. To which my friend responded, "We are the shadows." I think it's just the fluorescent lights ... not the people. I mean, I've seen their shadows on the sidewalk outside. I've seen the shadows get into their owner's (or does the shadow own the person) car. But anyhow.

Here is the assignment. Imagine a world where only inanimate objects cast shadows. Imagine how your unconscious would be symbolized. Where would all you psychological baggage be carried? What of dreams? ... Jung and Freud? What of murder mysteries and horror movies? What of fear itself? What of the song "Me and My Shadow"? Oh my.

You may also imagine a world where only organic, living things cast shadows. What then of the moon and its phases? What then of sundials? What then of a mountain's presence looming large over a small town, or are mountains organic and living? (surely living). Or imagine a place of no shadows.

Now. Go forth. Write. Imagine. Imagine your pencil not throwing a shadow on your words!

#91: Erasure Poems

Mary Ruefle has come with a new way to compose poems and to make a new art form, or at least new to me. In her newest book A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006) there are a collection of poems arrived at from a larger book with the same name. What Ruefle has done is to use a page of text from the larger book and then cross out/white out/paint out words to leave only a few words to make a poem.

What is interesting to me about these poems is that they involve active reading. Your eyes have to move around the page, which creates for extended line breaks, and it affects the breath. Not to mention the spaces between words that are on the same line — it's a type of projective verse. Plus if you get the book, you will also see textures from the white out/paint, not to mention the how the aged, faded brown pages play with the lively, contemporary bright white paint. Here are two examples that are used with permission from Wave Books.

Ruefle page 9

Ruefle page 28

I'm not sure the process behind this, but I imagine it is more than just saving words. I imagine you have to consider how it will look when complete, and how to breathe and read your way through the final piece.

You assignment is to do this. Your assignment is to go to used bookstore and try this out. I suggest first starting with Ralph Ellison's The Invisble Man or H. G. Wells' The Invisble Man. Until then you can visit this page and practice online: Erasure Poems.

#90: The Other Evolution; or The Man with Two Hearts: The Continuing Adventures of Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr — a New Movie for Steve Martin; or Lub Lub Dub Dub

It occurred to me evolution should have given us an extra heart, a back up heart, a just-in-case-one-heart-stops-working heart. Then it occurred to me to think what it would be like to have two hearts. How would symbolism, especially towards love, change? How would love change? How would humanity change? How would music change?

You assignment is to create a new world of humans, where each human has two hearts. You are to explore love, music, humanity, and everything else the imagination can discover in regards to that world. This should surely produce many poems, on an epic poem.

Explore form, too. Should you use quatrains? Should you use couplets? If rhyming, how would rhyme schemes change with two hearts? How would metrics change? Should you lines have two iambs each? Will the new heart beats affect the way the line breathes? etc. etc. etc.

Go forth! Love twice as much!!

#80: GemALEgedicht — The Pintist School of Poetry

Let me tell you a story of the forgotten school of poetry that Ralph Black and I (Tom Holmes) have recently discovered. This school arrived in the late 19th century and early 20th century in a few dank town pubs in Northern England, Scotland, and on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland. This poetic movement wasn’t a response to anything, it grew organically from the hops and yeast in Pints of Ale.

The Pintists, as they were called, believed in writing poetry whilst drinking pints of ale. Though they preferred to call their composing of poetry in this manner as Pinting. This school of poetry held firm in their beliefs of Pinting: everything could be explained by using only objects in the bar as a metaphor for the human condition; they believed the bartender was a high priest, or priestess; and their muse, their god, was represented in the below picture painted by Brian Warner.

One More Time

Yes, the Pintists held strong til they read these lines from The Waste Land:


These lines shook many Pintists to the core. They believed they had been stagnating by drinking only one ale. The Pintists slowly fractured. First came the experimentalist who started binging on the German Ales. Then some of them even split into a smaller group of fringe avant gardists who downed Indian Pale Ales whilst writing their poems (and they were sure to use "whilst" as often as possible in their poems, because they believed "whilst" had etymological connections to "whistle", which they thought keen because they were always wetting their whistle, which later became their underground, hip word for pencil, because the pencil, they believed, couldn't create unless it was wet with ale. (Some deep-hearted, avant garde, IPA Pintists actually took this literally, and dipped their pencils into their pints of IPA, like a fountain pen into an inkwell, as a ritual before they wrote. A few years later, these poor soles, these writers in the primes of their youth and artistic expressions, died from lead poisoning. This sorrowed all Pintists, and they slowly vanished like the sputtering of an empty keg.))

At the same time everyone was reading the lines “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME”, and whilst the avant garde IPA Pintists we’re slowly killing themselves, feminists got involved in the movement. The believed, and rightly so, that they too could drink as much and write as well as any of the male Pintists. This group of women would become known as the Ale-Wives. And whilst they believed in the Pintist school of poetry, they also believed the words HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME was a good suggestion to all that it is time to go home. The Ale-Wives stressed the importance that there are a few things outside of the pub that are important to consider. They also stressed the cyclic nature of life – all good things must come to an end, but tomorrow is just the beginning of more good things.

Around the time of the rise of the Ale-Wives, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein were in Dublin, Ireland, trying to raise rent money for James Joyce. They met Joyce in a bar in Dublin to give him rent money, so he wouldn’t have to move, and so he could concentrate on his writing. Joyce was so touched by the love and concern that he started buying drinks to celebrate this act of love. Eventually, when the rent money was almost all gone, Joyce started buying drams of ale instead of pints. He was trying to conserve what little money he had left. At which point, Ezra asked Joyce if he had heard or read anything of the Pintists. Joyce responded, “Yes, they are so dramatic and grandiose in their expositions. What they need to do is start drinking these drams, like us!” Soon the minimalist school of Pintists was born, and they called themselves the Pintalists. The Pintalists lasted the night, and the school was never heard from again. Though one poem was recently discovered by a Pintologist from Brockport, NY. This Pintologist was in SUNY Buffalo’s library of archives doing research on Ezra Pound. Whilst going through Pound’s journals, he found a cocktail napkin with a poem on it. He believes the poem was written during the night of the Pintalists. The poem reads:

In a Tavern in Dublin, Ireland

The apparition of these faces —
bubbles on a dram of ale.

Ok. Your assignment is to revive the school of Pintists. You will find a bar and compose poems whilst drinking pints of ale, um, I mean, you will involve yourself in Pinting.

Go forth.

Oh, one last thing, all Pintists believed in good tipping practices. They believed it healed the soul. They believed the better they tipped their high priests and priestesses, the less hungover they would be in the morning.

Ok. Now, go forth.

#55: Verbal Cubism

Here's a phrase that probably exists, and if it doesn't, it should. I'm sure it's from somewhere. Let me know if you know.

One of the aspects of cubism is using multi-perspectives in space and time on one canvas. Consider Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
                                 Pablo Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" at The MoMA

Can we do this in poetry? Consider the following Natasha Sajé poem from her book: Bend (Tupelo P, 2004):

I See

the cats playing with a rose fallen
from a wreath: a stiff silvery stem

topped by a dark pink ball.
How curiously they bat the rose,

sniffing it with glee, and that's what
makes me bend, and see that it's really

the long dried tail and entrails of a rat.
I laugh: If rose & rat are not so far

apart, then what can't be mistaken
for somthing that it's not?

The turn's a way of telling me
to make each breath a self-revision.

The assignment then: Bend as many perspectives as you can into a poem — a poem to not exceed one page in length (consider it your canvas). And please, don't rely too heavily on line breaks.

Helpful hints to achieve this assignment, pretend you are inside Picasso's mind or Einstein's mind.

#54: Before the Beginning of Years; or Ylem — the Cointreau of a Cosmospolitan

We are going to write a poem about the beginning of it all, or shortly thereafter. This assignment is inspired by the cover pitcture of the wonderful book: Genesis of the Big Bang by Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman.

Ylem & Cointreau
In the picture: Robert Herman (holding a "wired programming plugboard for an IBM CPC computer at IBM's Watson Labatory") is left, Ralph Alpher is right, and George Gamow is in the middle (he's not the bottle of Cointreau).

The poem you will compose wil thus incorporate Ylem and Cointreau. ("Ylem" is pronounced: ī ' lum). It's definition is below:

Ylem: [n] (cosmology) the original matter that (according to the big bang theory) existed before the formation of the chemical elements.
•The word used by George Gamow and his collaborators for the primordial material of the Big Bang. In most of his work Gamow assumed that the ylem consisted entirely of neutrons. In inflationary cosmology, the role of the ylem is played by the false vacuum.
•Primordial state of matter — neutrons and their decay products (protons and electrons) — before the Big Bang. The term was taken from Aristotle and used for the α-β-γ (Alpher-Bethe-Gamow) theory.
•This view of an expanding universe seemed to fit beautifully with the concepts envisaged by the Russian physicist Alexsander Friedman and G. Lemaitre (a Belgian Jesuit priest) around 1920 and later by George Gamow, where at the beginning of time, the Universe began its existence as an extremely hot and dense concentration of matter. Gamow named the substance ylem from Aristotle's basic stuff from which all matter was derived. It would later become known as the primordial nuclear soup.
•Etymology: Middle English, universal matter, from Old French ilem, from Medieval Latin hylem [where the y is long], accusative of hylē [where the y is long], matter from Greek hulē.

There will also be a structure to this poem. The first line of the poem will be one syllable. Each line thereafter will slowly grow in length but to not exceed 12 syllables. If you take a liking to Alan Guth's "inflationary model" of the standard Big Bang model, then your second or thid line should have a big jump in its number of syllables, but should not exceed nine syllables.

The last line of the poem has three possible endings.
1) Should you think the universe will grow to a certain size and then shrink into the Big Crunch, then the last line of the poem must be one syllable.
2) Should you think the universe will grow indefinitely and without end, then the last line of the poem must be the longest line of the poem.
3) Should you think the universe will grow to a certain size and not grow anymore, then the last line should be as long as the longest line in the poem, but the last line cannot by itself be the longest.

Also, if you can get a keyboard into the poem, or Aristotle, or alpha, beta, and gamma, then kick ass!

By the way, the first title of this assignment was taken from the first line of a "Chorus" in Algernon Charles Swinburne's "Atalanta in Calydon," which can be found in this new and best edition of selected Swinburne poems: Swinburne: The Major Poems and Selected Prose, eds. Jerome McGann & Charles L. Sligh. Yale U P, 2004.

#38: Bed Time

This poem will about the first sleep of humans.

This idea came to me after seeing Pierre Puvis de Chavannes' painting "Sleep" at The Met in NYC (

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes' Sleep                                                                   Pierre Puvis de Chavannes' "Sleep"

It might also be useful to recall the following lines in Virgil's Aenied:

"It was the time of first rest for tired mortals" (ll 268-69).

Of course, you might want to sleep on this assignment first.

#12: Tonal Dialectic

This one invaded me last night/this early morning (Thursday, December 18, 2003, around 4:30 a.m.) as I couldn't sleep and I started thinking about my recent poems and what I may try to do with my new poems to better reflect my thot/emotional processes. Also, I'm doing it because I came up with a cool phrase/coined a cool phrase in those wee hours and now I want to give the phrase some context.

I'll start like this, I guess. In metrical poetry, a poem moves forward in part because of the stressed and unstressed syllables, or the long and short syllables, or both. There's an interplay.

Ok. Here's the assignment: do that with tone!

I thought of the term "tonal dialectic," and I think it works in a similar manner as metrical movement. Shifts in tone. A tension can be made there. Meanings can surface!

So perhaps stanza one is in tone A and stanza two is in tone B and stanza three resolves them with tone C. Perhaps even more stanzas and tones. Or tone changes with lines, or whatever you see/hear fit.

So the assignment is to write a poem with different tones rubbing against each other to create something! But hopefully the tones will work in a progressive nature, not an arbitrary one.

It's a bit abstract, I suppose, and I have no advice except to read Donald Hall. His poems ride on tones, as I hear them. Or listen to Schoenberg.

#11: The Tod Marshall Project

I'm stealing this from Tod Marshall, or making a variant of a Tod Marshall experiment.

In this assignment: describe an abstraction to a noun.

For instance, Marshall has a poem called, "Describe Custody to an Omelette," which I think is in his new book, Dare Say.

#10: New Meanings

Take a poem you have written (preferably a dead poem, a poem that you have given up on) and find a word within the poem (a pivot word / an important word) and change its meaning and make that the title. For example, in the following Emily Dickinson poem:

Faith is a fine invention
when gentlemen can see,
but microscopes are prudent
in an emergency.

I will choose "microscopes" and make it mean "love." The title of the poem will be something like--"If Microscopes Meant Love" or "Read Love for Microscopes."

It's a bit of a language thing, but hopefully it will bring to life a dead poem, at which point you should chase that life and play with the poem until it sings anew!

#9: The Coop de Gras Experiment

This one is brought to us by Linda Cooper!

Write six 10-line poems with no repeat nouns. Include internal rhymes within lines 9 and 10. Do not think about content while writing the little vignettes. Afterward, look for a common theme and bring it to life! (Revise away the form if it doesn't serve the poem). Go Forth!!

#8: Sapphic Love

As we know, we only have one complete and full poem/song of Sappho. The rest are all in fragments. Sometimes translators leave those blanks in their translation. This assignment, which I imagine has been done before, attempts to fill in those blanks--not all blanks to all her poems, but for just the blanks of one poem. For instance, consider fragment 24C

]we live
the opposite

or 24D

]in a thin voice

So put words, lines, stanzas where the brackets are.

One may also just take a fragment like "I would not think to touch the sky with two arms" (fragment 52) and wrap a poem around it.

I imagine in your final draft, to tip your hat, you should italicize Sappho's words.

Other poems with only fragments from poets like Anakeron or the iamb inventor Archilocos, etc. can be used in place of Sappho.

Good Sappho books are 7 Greeks by Guy Davenport (NY: New Directions, 1980:, or If Not, Winter by Anne Carson (NY: Vintage, 2001: The former is awesome, and the latter is equally as impressive. Mary Barnard's book, while also impressive and awesome, doesn't leave the blanks.

#7: The Rainbow Connection

Compose a poem with the phrase "choking on a rainbow." This is a phrase that comes from an "Onion" satire article about the kid with dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy who writes poems and has books published — Mattie Stepanek (or whatever his name is). Variants can include "eating a rainbow" or "cooking a rainbow" or whateffer. You know?!

#6: Ok Parder

This one came from Renee Roehl's kid, Dario, and his writing class.

Start a poem with "Ok Pardner, this is it." Partner can be used in place of pardner should you choose. This seems to provide for a strong, exciting opening.

One might also want to refer themselves to Ed Dorn's book-long poem Gunslinger. One might also want to refer themselves to Chris Howell's poem "The Holdup" in Third Coast Spring 2003 ( (quoted in full below).

The Holdup

Give me your money, he said.

We don't have money, they replied,
we have eggs.

Oh, very well, he sighed, give me your eggs.

We don't have complete eggs, they said, only
the shells.

Well, then, give me your shells, quickly
before I become tense.

The shells we have are broken, they said,
we will give you the pieces.

#5: Translation

I heard about this one somewhere. Translate an English poem from English to English. I imagine this can done on a word-to-word basis or a line-to-line basis, or the music/melody could just be carried over, or the syntax could be carried over. Whatever you think translation means.

#4: Art Response Poem

Find a painting or a sculpture, one that isn't too famous or popular, and write a poem about it, or a response to it, or let it evoke something. Perhaps even create a narrative about the scene, the Pre-Raphaelites might be most helpful for the latter.

#3: The "Dialouges" Experiment

This one is result of Thom Caraway's fine eyes and ears. "Dialouges" is pronounced (die ya loogz'). The word doesn't exist. The poem is to make this word exist. If you can work Plato into the poem, then even better.

#2: The Dr. Carlos Response Poem

Write a response to "The Red Wheel Barrow." There is enough information in this poem to piece together a story, i.e. the wheel barrow is glazed with rain water suggests that it has recently rained. You may even want to fill in the spaces between the words or lines in the "The Red Wheelbarrow."

#1: The Reader's Digest Experiment

Write a poem titled "An Abridged Version for the Modern Reader." I found this sentence on the title page of a Stendhal book published by Reader's Digest that I found in an antique mall in the-middle-of-nowhere, Washington.

#0: T-shirts

Get our bumper sticker, issue three t-shirts, & "Kiss My Assonance" t-shirts and thongs here:

Please come back as more assignments will be posted as they are found or created. Hopefully, one per week!
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